Out of the Loop Pt. 3: a Before and After Look at the Neighborhoods of the Inner Loop

The previous two blog posts of this series, detailing the Central-Plymouth Avenue and Corn Hill neighborhoods, highlighted some of the historic structures that were demolished in the name of the Inner Loop.

The Loop’s third section, which ran from the eastern edge of the Troup-Howell bridge along Howell Street to the corner of Union and George Streets, did not result in the razing of many iconic Rochester buildings, but it nevertheless destroyed a staggering number of residences, and drastically changed the face of the fourth ward neighborhood.


This ca. 1955 aerial photo depicts the route of the third arc of the Inner Loop from the Troup-Howell bridge along Howell Street. The route crosses South, Clinton, and Monroe Avenues before connecting with Union Street. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

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The area in question today, after the filling in of the Inner Loop. City of Rochester Maps, 2018. 

Built between 1956 and August 1958, the Inner Loop’s first eastside segment proved its most expensive and complicated section to date. The half-mile arc’s construction leveled over 160 structures in its wake and featured four bridges as well as a complex interchange.

Destruction for the arc began in the fall of 1955. By the time the razing was completed the following summer, swaths of family homes and apartment buildings had been eaten up in the process, forcing countless citizens to move out of the neighborhood, and leaving a desolate rubble-strewn scene behind.



Howell Street in shambles. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

Democrat and Chronicle writer, Arch Merrill, went so far to say in 1956: “where loop demolition is underway at the eastern end of the new bridge, it looks like Coventry after the blitz.”


The last house demolished for the third arc of the Inner Loop. Democrat & Chronicle, August 4, 1956.

In addition to countless residences, a number of commercial buildings also met the wrecking ball, including a couple of longstanding businesses.

Rabe’s Complete Auto Service, located at 100 Manhattan Street, was originally a harness manufacturing company when it was founded in 1893. The following century, the firm made the transition from horse wares to automobiles.

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Rabe’s Auto Service (100 Manhattan Street) in the 1920s. From the collection of the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection.


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The location of Rabe’s Auto Service on Manhattan Street, north of Monroe Ave. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.



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Aerial photo of the same area in 2012, prior to the loop being filled in. The Rabe’s site has been replaced with part of Strong Museum’s parking lot. City of Rochester map, 2012.

Another longtime firm to lose its headquarters was Carhart’s Photo Service and Camera Shop, located at 294 South Avenue. Founded in 1914, the family business was once the largest photo developer in Western New York .


Advertisement in Democrat & Chronicle. December 13, 1953.

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Carhart’s photo Service stood at 294 South Ave on the block between Howell and Marshall. NB: South Ave is labeled St. Paul on this map. The “South” pictured is South Street, now St Mary’s Place. “(Green)” is Clinton Ave. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

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The same area post-Loop construction. Clinton Avenue (albeit a bridge) remains the only constant. City of Rochester Map, 2012.

Notably, one major institution in the area remained in tact amidst the destruction and construction of the Inner Loop: the Fanny Farmer factory at 7 Griffith Street.

As these maps demonstrate, the Fanny Farmer candy studio, was one of the only structures in the vicinity of the Inner Loop interchange to survive. It closed, however, in 1967.


Prior to Loop construction. The Fanny Farmer factory is the pink rectangular building on the south side of Griffith Street. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.



The same area following the development of the Inner Loop interchange. Fanny Farmer Factory in pink. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, ca 1950s.

Almost every other building along Howell Street, Marshall Street, Griffith Street, South Street and Byron Street detailed in the 1935 map was razed.

The Loop interchange also severed Marshall and Griffith Streets. Both roads once ran from South Avenue to Monroe Avenue, but as a result of loop construction, they were both stopped just east of Clinton Avenue.

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Marshall and Griffith Streets run from South Avenue to Monroe Avenue in this ca 1935 map. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

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Marshall Street and Griffith Streets today. City of Rochester Map, 2018. 



Undoubtedly, the thoroughfare that underwent the greatest change during this phase of loop construction, was Howell Street.


The barren path along Howell Street stretching from South Avenue to Monroe Avenue. Democrat & Chronicle. May 26, 1957.

Like Marshall and Griffith Streets, Howell Street also once ran from South Avenue all the way to Monroe Avenue, but as the loop took its route, it was all but obliterated.


The original route of Howell Street can be seen in this 1935 map. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.


The same section in 2012, prior to the loop getting filled in. A few buildings just below the Inner Loop near its intersection with Monroe are the only edifices remaining from the original Howell Street. City of Rochester maps, 2012.

The neighborhood surrounding the eastern end of the new half-mile arc, running from Monroe Ave to the intersection of Union Street and George Street (which no longer exists), did not experience as dramatic a transformation as its western reach, but still witnessed considerable destruction.

Small sections of Manhattan Street and Savannah Street were lobbed off, while most of the buildings lining the west side of Union Street up to George Street were toppled.

This City of Rochester Plat Map from 1935 and Sanborn Fire Insurance map from the late 1950s below depict how the area appeared before and just immediately after the arc’s construction.

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Manhattan, Savannah and Union Street pre-Loop. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.



The eastern section of the Inner Loop’s third arc cut through portions of Manhattan Street, Savannah Street and Union Street, but left many area buildings intact. Sanborn Fire Insurance map.

This area looks much different today, as the majority of the homes and businesses that still stood after the loop’s construction were later razed and eventually replaced with the Strong Museum property. More recently, of course, this section of the loop was filled in, which will bring further transformations to the surrounding neighborhood in the years to come.

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Strong Museum and its parking lot now occupy the site where several residences once stood. Only a stub of Savannah Street remains while Howell Street has been revived and expanded. Googlemaps, 2018. 

The next post in this series will look at the dramatic changes the Loop wrought in the neighborhood between Front Street to Scio Street…

-Emily Morry

Published in: on September 30, 2018 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Scream for Ice Cream: Abbott’s Frozen Custard

Anyone who has had to endure the deep snow and bone chilling cold of winter has a favorite sign of spring. For some, it is the crocus, pushing its beautiful petals above the melting ice and snow. For others, it is the robin skittering across their lawns. For many Rochesterians, it is the annual opening of the Abbott’s Frozen Custard stand at 4791 Lake Avenue, at the corner of Beach Avenue, in Charlotte. The company is said to trace its origins to 1902, and for many it is a Rochester institution, much like Kodak or Xerox. It may be a surprise, therefore, to learn that the founders were not Rochesterians and the present owner is not named Abbott.


Abbott’s Frozen Custard Stand, 4791 Lake Avenue, Charlotte
(Democrat and Chronicle, 2 June 2016)

Abbott’s was founded by two brothers, Arthur Warren Abbott (14 October 1888-14 April 1981) and Charles Harold Abbott (15 July 1876-14 March 1966). Although the family had a brief sojourn in Minnesota, their father, Frank C. Abbott, was from Maine, where he was a merchant selling dry goods (e.g., textiles, ready-to-wear clothing, and personal care items). By 1900, Frank was also selling ice, an essential ingredient in ice cream.

In 1902, Arthur and Charles started experimenting with various ice cream recipes and products in Rye (Westchester County), New York. The end result was a product that contained 14% butterfat, eggs and a smooth texture. In the ensuing decades, the brothers opened other stands in Coney Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, as well as in Rye.

The original Abbott’s in Rochester was the store at Lake and Beach Avenues in Charlotte. Arthur continued to manage the other stores from his home in Rye, so supervision of the Rochester store was undertaken by Charles, who lived in the Powers Hotel in the summer months, and then returned home for the off-season. There was no other store in Rochester until 1955, when a second Abbott’s opened across from the Rochester Airport on Brooks Avenue.

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Arthur and Irma Abbott and Their Horse, Blue Man
(Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), 4 May 1952)

Arthur Abbott, who had always been an avid horseman, wanted to retire and concentrate on his stable. This desire likely intensified in 1952, when his horse, Blue Man, finished third in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness Stakes (the first two legs in horse racing’s Triple Crown). By the late 1950s, all the Abbott’s stores had closed with the exception of the two stores in Rochester. In 1958, the Abbott family sold the Rochester stores to a local couple, Leonard Schreiber (15 August 1918-23 December 1979) and his wife Thelma (3 September 1920-6 March 2003), franchisees of the Brooks Avenue store.


Leonard Schreiber, Arthur Abbott’s Successor
(Democrat and Chronicle, 24 December 1979)

It was the Schreibers who developed Abbott’s into the Rochester institution we know today. They began expanding in the late 1970s, opening franchises on West Henrietta Road, Empire Boulevard, Lyell Avenue, and West Ridge Road. By the time of Leonard Schreiber’s death in 1979, there were seven Abbott’s franchises in the Rochester area, as well as one in Wayne County. Thelma (known as “Tiby” to the family) continued to run the business after her husband’s passing. In 1989, she stepped away from day-to-day management of the company, turning control over to her daughter Gail. Today Abbott’s has 36 stores in 6 states, the lion’s share – 26 – in the greater Rochester area.   Anyone for ice cream?


For Further Information:

1880 U.S. census, St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 5, p. 14, dwelling 92, family 110, Frank C. Abbott.

1900 U.S. census, Scarborough Town, Cumberland County, Maine, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 78, p. 140B, dwelling 326, family 326, Frank C. Abbott.

1940 U.S. census, Rye, Westchester County, New York, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 60-326, p. sheet 5B, household 104, Arthur W. Abbott.

“The Abbott’s Story,” Abbott’s Frozen Custard (https://www.abbottscustard.com/our-story/ : accessed 11 September 2018).

Mary Chao, “Abbott’s Looks Beyond Home,” Democrat and Chronicle, 24 April 2004, p. 14D.

Kara K. Choquette, “Abbott’s Cold War,” Democrat and Chronicle, 26 October 1997, p. 1E.

Henry W. Clune, “Seen and Heard,” Democrat and Chronicle, 15 May 1952, p. 23.

“Grand Opening Today,” [advertisement], Democrat and Chronicle, 12 August 1955, p. 7.

John Oller, “He’s Making Frozen Custard a Growing Business,” Times Union, 14 July 1977, p. 1B.

“Nifty Ways to Love Your Summer: To Every Food a Season,” Times Union,  21 June 1979, p. 1C.


-Christopher Brennan

Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 4:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Out of the Loop: a Before and After Look at the Neighborhoods of the Inner Loop, Part 2.

As we saw in the first blog post of this series, the Inner Loop dramatically altered the neighborhood surrounding Central Avenue, Allen Street, and Plymouth Avenue North. Longstanding businesses and local landmarks were erased from Rochester’s map, as were a substantial number of residences.  This trend would continue as loop construction made its journey southward in the early 1950s.

The Loop’s second arc, constructed between 1953 and 1955, continued along Plymouth Avenue south of Main Street, then curved along Troup Street in the Corn Hill neighborhood to the Genesee River.


The original second arc of the loop curved at Troup Street, towards the river, leaving the section of Plymouth Ave South below Troup intact. Democrat & Chronicle. September 10, 1954.

This Inner Loop section no longer exists today, as the Loop underwent a western expansion in the early 1970s. The following map details the area where the original second arc once ran:


Today, Plymouth Avenue South is a regular roadway and I-490 follows the path of a section of the original second arc of the Loop. Googlemaps, 2018.

The initial plans for the second section of the Inner Loop required the demolition of over 30 buildings, most of which stood on the east side of Plymouth Avenue South between Spring Street and Troup Street. A number of structures on Spring, School Alley and South Fitzhugh Street also met their demise during this phase of construction.

The photograph below shows the swath of Plymouth Ave South that was demolished for the original course of the loop:


Looking south along Plymouth Avenue from Spring Street. All the buildings on the east side of Plymouth Ave between Spring Street and Troup Street have been torn down. Times-Union. April 11, 1955.

Several apartment buildings on Plymouth Avenue South, such as the Columbia (# 60-64), The Hilton (#110) and Casa Loma (#152), were emptied of tenants and razed, along with a few businesses on Spring Street, including Granger Radio Service (#62) and Levin Painting (#72).


A not so progressive ad for Granger Radio Service. Democrat & Chronicle. November 30, 1947.

Wolford’s Books and Fine Arts Shop, at 67 Spring Street, also met the wrecking ball even though it was housed in what was reported to be the oldest standing residence on the city’s West side.


Democrat & Chronicle. November 30, 1947.

The peak-roofed frame house at 67 Spring Street was built between 1821 and 1823 by blacksmith, Caleb Bicknell. Bicknell built his primary residence, a brick structure, at 63 Spring Street directly beside the frame house. The lot containing both of Bicknell’s homes had previously housed Rochesterville’s cemetery, but upon the property’s purchase by Bicknell in 1821, the bodies were disinterred and moved to the site of the old Rochester General Hospital (now the site of the Anthony Square Apartments).

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This circa 1950 photograph shows the brick house at 63 Spring on the left and the frame house at 67 Spring on the right. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

The site of the Bicknell properties at 63-67 Spring Street was in the path of the original second loop section, but is now marked by the parking lot in front of the Monroe County Jail , as these maps show:


The area in question circa 1935. 63-67 Spring Street stand between Plymouth Ave South (formerly Sophia St) and School Alley. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.


The same area in 2018. The church at bottom left remains the only constant. Spring Street ends at Plymouth Ave South and the section of School Alley pictured above no longer exists. Googlemaps, 2018.

One of the more colorful structures that was demolished for the loop’s second arc was the Plymouth Spiritualist Church, which had stood at the northeast corner of Plymouth Ave South and Troup Street since 1856.

The Spiritualist movement took root in Rochester in the late 1840s thanks to the influence of the Fox Sisters, who claimed the ability to speak to the dead. Their latter-day co-religionists moved into the Plymouth Ave church in 1906. They honored the memory of the three sisters with a 25-foot tall obelisk on the property at the suggestion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame).  The church, which went on to become a something of a safe haven for area non-conformists in the first half of the twentieth century, was demolished in 1954. The Fox Sisters monument, meanwhile, was relocated to the southeast corner of Plymouth and Troup, where it remains today.

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Plymouth Spiritualist Church, with its signature spire at the northeast corner of Plymouth Avenue South and Troup St. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.

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Signs for I-490 and the Inner Loop mark the northeast corner of Plymouth and Troup today.  Googlemaps, 2018.

The southeast corner of Plymouth and Troup was home to a lavish residence once owned by Civil War-era Congressman, Alfred Ely. Though the handsome estate escaped demolition during this phase of loop construction in the early 1950s, it was nevertheless torn down in 1958 to make room for a new loop-adjacent motel. As the wreckers were in the process of razing the house, however, they made a curious discovery. Inside of Alfred Ely’s circa 1849 residence, stood another house.

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Alfred Ely’s residence as it appeared in the late 19th century.

Thomas Pease, one of the first men to own a line of canal boats in Rochester, had built a modest home on the site in the 1820s. Ely bought the former Pease property in 1849, and, seeking something more substantial, built a new shell around the original residence and constructed additional wings, leaving Pease’ house completely hidden from view.

Ely’s doublewide home was replaced with the Mohawk Motor Hotel in 1959, which billed itself as being within walking distance to downtown, the Community War Memorial and several business centers. By the 1970s, however, the motel’s clientele had shifted from traveling businessmen to locals seeking both very short-term and extended stays. The edifice was repurposed as the Plymouth Park West office building in 1977.


An artist’s sketch of the Mohawk Manor Hotel with the relocated Spiritualist obelisk in full view. Democrat and Chronicle. July 26, 1958.


The same structure, now the Plymouth Park West office building, today. The Spiritualist obelisk is just out of view amidst the trees. Googlemaps, 2018.

Just down the block from the Ely homestead, lay the former residence of another local man of note, Lewis Henry Morgan. Morgan, an influential anthropologist, social theorist and lawyer, made his home at 124 South Fitzhugh Street a hub of intellectual activity in the 19th century. Not only did the house host the meetings of various elite clubs, but it was also the site where city leaders first outlined their demands for co-education at the University of Rochester.

In 1938, the significant structure at the southeast corner of Fitzhugh Street and Troup Street was honoured with a historic marker from the New York State Education Department at the prompting of the Rochester Historical Society. The building’s last tenant, Harry Potter (no relation), vacated the premises in 1953 and the edifice was torn down to make way for the Troup-Howell Bridge.


A painting of the Morgan residence by Corn Hill artist, Ralph Avery. Democrat & Chronicle. September 27, 1953.


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A patch of grass along South Fitzhugh Street  and the western approach to the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge mark the site of Morgan’s home today. Googlemaps, 2018. 

The bridge, which carried the Inner Loop over the Genesee River to Howell Street, was opened permanently in June 1955.

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The west side of the Troup-Howell Bridge as it approaches the bend at Plymouth Avenue South. The Campbell-Whittlesey House, at 123 South Fitzhugh Street, is visible on the left. Democrat & Chronicle. September 25, 1955.



The Troup-Howell Bridge was replaced with the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge in 2007. The Campbell-Whittlesey House still stands on the left. Googlemaps, 2018.

The west side of the Inner Loop complete, developers and demolition crews moved next to the city’s east side…

-Emily Morry

Published in: on August 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Out of the Loop: a Before and After Look at the Neighborhoods of the Inner Loop, Part 1.

The Inner Loop has been such of fixture of Rochester’s landscape over the past half-century, that it is probably difficult for many residents to remember what downtown looked like before it came along. Many other Rochesterians have never known a life without the loop. This series will take a look at the city before and after the circular roadway at its center took shape.

The original version of the Inner Loop was built in five sections between 1952 and 1965. This series will discuss each arc in turn and document some of the changes–and losses–that each arc’s surrounding neighborhood experienced.

The first arc of the loop ran from Central Avenue near the western bank of the Genesee River to Allen Street, then down Plymouth Ave North to Main Street West. Plymouth Avenue would remain the western boundary of the Inner Loop until the roadway was expanded to its current route in 1971.

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The first arc of the loop ran from Central to Allen then down Plymouth Ave North to Main Street West. (Circa 1960 map by New York State Department of Public Works from the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division)

Demolition for the first .47 mile stretch of the Loop began in the spring of 1952, and from the outset it was a slow-going and costly process. Because of the age of the structures in the neighborhood, almost every building had to be dismantled brick by brick. It took two weeks just to tear down the very first house for the project at 141 Plymouth Ave North.

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Crews begin their work on the first house to be demolished for the Inner Loop at 141 Plymouth Ave North.  Democrat & Chronicle. June 17, 1952.

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Current site of 141 Plymouth. Googlemaps. 2018.

The current site of the house lies at the southwest corner of Plymouth Ave North and Allen Street.  This was not the case when the home was torn down. As a result of Loop construction, part of Allen Street was actually rerouted half a block-length southward from its original location.

This 1935 map shows Allen Street running north of the Pullman Building (now Buckingham Commons):


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On the 1935 map, the house at 141 Plymouth is visible beside the U.P. (United Presbyterian) Church. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

This current map shows Allen Street running south of the former Pullman building/Buckingham Commons, while the Inner Loop closely follows the original course of Allen Street:

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The properties along this stretch of Plymouth Avenue North were renumbered. The 141 of 2018 is not the same location as the 141 of 1935. City of Rochester Map, 2018.

Over the course of 1952 and 1953, the rubble pile from the house at 141 Plymouth Ave was joined by the remains of several other residences along Plymouth, Allen Street, Central Ave, and State Street.

The first leg of the project also destroyed a few notable non-residential buildings.

The First United Presbyterian Church, which had stood at 131 Plymouth Avenue North since 1849, met the wrecking ball in the summer of 1952. The displaced congregation dedicated the site of their new church in Gates the following summer.


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The First United Church, which stood at 131 Plymouth Avenue North between Church Street and Allen Street, is visible on the left side of this circa 1913  photograph.


Looking along the same stretch of Plymouth Avenue North from a  slightly different angle in the midst of Inner Loop construction, 1952-1953. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

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The same stretch of Plymouth Ave, (which hasn’t been part of the Inner Loop since the early 1970s) as it appears today. Googlemaps, 2018.

Another mainstay of the neighborhood that became a casualty of the Inner Loop, was the former Fire Department Headquarters building.

The edifice, built in 1906, occupied the entire southern block of Central Avenue from Mill Street to Front Street. The Fire Department moved out of the expansive structure in 1938, afterwhich it served a variety of functions before being repurposed as emergency apartments during the housing shortage of the post-WWII era.

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The Central Ave headquarters circa 1924.

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The loop section and parking lot that mark the approximate spot today. Googlemaps, 2018.

Just down the block from the Fire Department Headquarters building, lay perhaps the most historic edifice that was razed for the first arc of the Loop–The Savoy Hotel.

The 125-room inn on the corner of State Street and Central Avenue was originally called the Waverly House when it was constructed in 1848, just 200 feet from the city’s first New York Central Railroad Station.

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A circa 1860s advertisement for the Waverly House. From: The Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

The posh hotel once hosted noted figures such as Buffalo Bill Cody, but infamously declined to provide a room for one of Rochester’s most celebrated citizens in 1872.

When Frederick Douglass learned that his South Avenue home had been destroyed by a fire that June, he boarded the first train back to Rochester from Washington DC, and, arriving late at night, sought shelter at the Waverly House before reuniting with his displaced family in the morning. The night clerk refused Douglass service, falsely claiming that the hotel was fully booked, and the famed abolitionist set off into the rainy night in search of his loved ones.

The hotel, which was renamed the Savoy in 1894, experienced a considerable decline in the 20th century, and not all city residents were saddened by the news that the Savoy would be demolished in 1952. Initially, just the northern section of the building was razed to make way for the Loop before the rest of the structure followed suit.


The Savoy, at the corner of State and Central, as depicted in an early 20th century  postcard.

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The approximate site of the Savoy today. Googlemaps, 2018.

In addition to losing some historic buildings to the first arc of the loop, the city also lost the entire section of Central Avenue west of St. Paul Street.

This 1935 map shows the section of Central between State Street and Front Street:

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Both the Savoy Hotel and the Rochester Fire Department Headquarters are visible in this 1935 map. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

This current map shows the same section of the city, with the Inner Loop having replaced the route of Central Avenue:

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NB: The section of Mill Street seen in the middle of the previous map is also absent from the current view. City of Rochester map, 2018.

The two photographs below, the first taken in the early 1950s and the latter, from 2018, also give a sense of the radical remapping of the first arc’s neighborhood.



The Downtown United Presbyterian Church (not be confused the United Presbyterian Church on Plymouth Avenue), seen in both photos, stands at the corner of Fitzhugh Street North and Allen Street. What is left of Central Avenue runs beside the railroad tracks. From: The Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

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The church remains the constant in the much changed post-Inner Loop picture. Googlemaps, 2018



The changes would continue to come with the Loop’s second arc through Corn Hill…

-Emily Morry



Published in: on August 2, 2018 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rochester’s Scion of Yellow Journalism: Rochester’s Journal-American (June 25, 1922-July 1,1937)

Every day, hundreds of Rochesterians pass the building at the southeast corner of Andrews and St. Paul Streets and give it little thought. Today, it is the home of Cook Iron Store Company, a supplier of construction and industrial-strength equipment. A closer examination of the doorway facing St. Paul, however, reveals a curious inscription: “Journal-American Building.” What was the Journal-American? What is the story behind the curious inscription?


“Journal American” Inscription at 136 St. Paul Street
(From Upstate Magazine, Democrat and Chronicle, 22 November 1981, p. 23)


Today, Rochester has one major newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, but in years past it had many more. Older citizens will remember the Times Union (the afternoon paper). Further back, the city had the Rochester Herald, the Rochester Post-Express, the Rochester Union and Advertiser, and, of course, the Rochester Journal, and the Rochester Sunday American. The building on St. Paul Street was the home of the latter two publications.

The life of these two papers was brief but interesting, and they represent an entrée into the broader history of American journalism. Both papers were owned by William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863-August 14, 1951), the model for Charles Foster Kane in the motion picture Citizen Kane. At the time of his death, Hearst had built the largest newspaper and media company in the country, Hearst Communications.  Its publications were often cited as examples of “yellow journalism,” a form of communication specializing in human interest stories, scandals, and sensationalism. Or, in the jocular phrase of the profession, “If it bleeds, it leads!”


William Randolph Hearst
(From: Democrat and Chronicle, August 15, 1951, p. 1)

In 1922, Hearst considered running for New York State Governor, a stepping stone to the Presidency. To complement his existing newspapers in New York City, and to build support in the rest of the state, Hearst established newspapers in other portions of the state. The Rochester Journal was the afternoon newspaper, directly competing with the Gannett-owned, Times Union. The Rochester Sunday American, as the name implies, was a weekly publication, competing directly with the Sunday edition of the Democrat and Chronicle (owned by Gannett after 1928).

Starting a newspaper from scratch requires, among other things, experienced reporters, and Hearst wasn’t above stealing them from other papers. Local journalist, Curt Gerling, recounts that in 1922, mysterious invitations arrived in the mailboxes of journalists employed by other Rochester newspapers. The invitations offered free dinner and drinks at one of Rochester’s best hotels. At the conclusion of the dinner, their host clinked a fork against the closest Scotch bottle (remember, this was during Prohibition!) and said,

“Gentlemen, tonight’s party was on William Randolph Hearst. Today we purchased the Post-Express and we begin operations in 90 days. We’re looking for a staff. Anyone who wants a future in the newspaper business and double their present salaries can make an appointment with me this evening.”

Upon acquiring the papers, Hearst began an all-out drive to attract readers to his publication. At one point he was sponsoring a contest offering a car a day. He also sponsored a number of other contests offering other prizes. Free roller skates were provided to local paper boys.

Hearst’s articles were boisterous, making ridiculous, often unsupported claims. As local journalist Curt Gerling observed:

“Anyone born to English-speaking parents and worth more than $1.50 became ‘a scion of a well-known wealthy family,’ at least when his two-car crash was reported under a streamer head. … [Or] Old man Schultz, who gave a few Dutchtown friends a bottle or two of home brew became – when he was apprehended for the offense – ‘Sudsie Schultz, Beer Baron Racketeer.’”

journal american-ad 1936

Advertisement for the Rochester Journal-American
(From the city directory for 1936, the last full year the paper was published)

For fifteen years, the newspaper wars between Gannett and Hearst continued unabated. On July 1, 1937 Hearst published his last issue of the newspaper and closed his Rochester and Syracuse papers. Gannett bought the Hearst paper’s circulation list, its comics and other features, and the mechanical presses in the Journal American building. In return, Gannett gave up the morning newspaper in Albany (which competed directly with the Hearst-owned paper).

Since 1940, Cook Iron Store Company has owned the entire building at 136 St. Paul Street, the Journal-American’s glory days as “Rochester’s scion of yellow journalism” long behind her.


-Christopher Brennan

For Further Information:

Curt Gerling, Smugtown, U.S.A. (1957; reprint, Rochester, New York: Plaza Publishing, 1993).

Bob Marcotte, “Journal-American Lived from 1922 to 1937,” Democrat and Chronicle, June 23, 1997, p. 5B.

Bob Minzesheimer, “Signs of Old Rochester,” Upstate Magazine, Democrat and Chronicle, November 22, 1981, p. 23-24.

Published in: on July 10, 2018 at 3:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Settin’ the Place: the Jazz Festival Neighbourhood One Hundred Years Ago

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival has certainly made its mark on Rochester’s East End in the past 17 years. But the festival’s imprint represents just one of many shifts that has served to reshape the area around East Avenue, Gibbs Street and Main Street over the last century.

So what did the Jazz Festival neighbourhood look like 100 years ago?


The Festival map in 2018. [Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival]

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A section of the same area in 1918. [City of Rochester Plat Map, 1918]

The Festival’s main drag, Gibbs Street, is rechristened ‘Jazz Street’ every June. Its outdoor stage offering free shows draws throngs of music lovers for the duration of the 9-day long event.  The parade of people, sounds and scents that typify Jazz Street represent a far cry from the Gibbs Street of 1918. Back then, the quiet, tree-lined street was populated with several lodging houses and physicians’ offices along with a few small  businesses.

jazz_gibbs map 1918

This 1918 map shows a sleepier Gibbs Street replete with several apartment buildings and lodging houses. [City of Rochester Plat Map 1918.]

Two sizeable edifices flanked the ends of Gibbs Street at its intersection with East Avenue. On the West side, stood the second location of the Genesee Valley Club, an elite social club outfitted with a restaurant and reading room. The club relocated to its current climes on East Avenue in 1922, and its former headquarters served as an office building for a number of years before it was razed and eventually replaced with Eastman Place (now the Miller Center, home to Max of Eastman Place) in 1988.


The elegant second home of the Genesee Valley Club prior to its relocation further down East Avenue. [from the collection of the Local History & Genealogy Division, Rochester Public Library]

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The Miller Center (formerly Eastman Place) in 2018.

Across from the Genesee Valley Club at the northeast corner of Gibbs Street and East Ave, lay the Wentworth Apartments, which housed 60 residents until a fire broke out in the building in 1923 and gutted its interior. Two years later, it was replaced with the Lincoln Building, which hosts the Jazz Festival ticket office in June.


The Wentworth Apartments ca 1922.


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Lincoln Building, June 2018

A few doors down from the Lincoln Building, lies the Rochester Club, which, along with Christ Church, is one of the few jazz festival venues that can actually be seen on Rochester’s map in 1918.


The Rochester Club, ca 1910-1914


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A crowd surrounds the Rochester Club building to see Herb Smith’s Freedom Trio, June 2018.

Other festival venues had yet to constructed, such as the Temple Building (built in 1925), the Harro East (built in 1936), and perhaps most significantly, the Eastman Theatre.

Concertgoers now form queues along the southeast corner of East Main and Gibbs to see the jazz festival’s headliners each June, but in 1918, the site was home to a lodging house that had once been the residence of a noted local lawyer and Civil War veteran, Captain Theodore Bacon. The handsome edifice was later razed to make way for the Theatre, which opened in 1922.


The former Bacon residence in 1919.


The Eastman Theatre during Jazz Fest, 2018.

Kitty-corner from Eastman lies the expansive parking lot which houses the festival’s Big Tent. Passers by in late June are treated to a range of sounds emanating from the makeshift music club.

One hundred years ago, Rochesterians at the same site found themselves soothed by the chimes of St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church. The church was sold in 1922, then razed and replaced with parking spaces, but the metal from its historic chimes were melted down and recast into the chimes that now ring from the chapel of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

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St Peter’s Presbyterian Church, pictured ca 1922,  stood at the northeast corner of what is now the Big Tent Parking lot.

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The Big Tent viewed from the same angle in 2018. Note the small triangular tower of 42 East Avenue that can also be seen in the ca. 1922 photo.

Rochesterians walking along the block of East Main from Gibbs to North Chestnut Street in 1918 may have also heard shoppers testing out the wares of the local Rudolph Wurlitzer dealer at 364 East Main. An advertisement for the shop boasted that its electric player pianos were “just the thing for an ice cream parlor or pool room.”


Advertisement from Democrat & Chronicle, May 19, 1920.

The same block would go on to host a number of other music emporiums, including Taylor Piano Company, Music Lovers Shoppe and Levis Music Store, before these buildings were razed over the course of the 20th century and replaced with additional parking spaces.

Across the street from the Big Tent parking lot, the southern stretch of East Main from Gibbs Street to North Chestnut Street showcases an array of food trucks that provide sustenance to thousands of concert goers from Rochester and beyond during the festival.

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The Jazz Festival’s outdoor food court on East Main Street, June 2018.

Interestingly, in 1918, this same block also drew food and drink-seeking Rochesterians.

Multiple grocers, including the Quality Market (391 East Main) and Mahatcke Brothers & Company (375 East Main), lined the street.

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Advertisement from Democrat & Chronicle, February 7, 1918.

One local grocer, Frankfurt & Brewster (389 East Main), suffered a temporary closure in 1918 for selling wheat flour without the proper substitutes as required by the rationing regulations enacted during WWI.

In addition to picking up powdered grains and produce, consumers on East Main could indulge their sweet tooths at Anna Vardis’ bakery (401 East Main) and wet their whistles at Burns & McCarthy’s Saloon (405 East Main). Savvy shoppers could hunt for deals at Price’s Fish Market (385 East Main), where flounder and haddock were on hand for 14 cents a pound. Fish fans seeking to treat themselves could opt for fresh caught salmon or lake trout for 32 cents a pound.


Advertisement from Democrat & Chronicle, April 10, 1918.

Readers who frequent the festival might marvel at the prices of East Main Street’s food fare in 1918, but these same readers would do well to remind themselves that the city’s inhabitants at that time did not have access to culinary delicacies such as poutine, nor did they have the Jazz Festival.

-Emily Morry


Published in: on June 27, 2018 at 8:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Arsenal for Democracy, Part 2: The Symington Companies’ Rise and Fall

American involvement in World War I began on April 6, 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany, but by then the war had already been well underway for nearly three years. The American tradition of neutrality in European conflicts kept the United States out of the war for a time, but Germany’s continued sinking of American merchant ships eventually forced the nation into the war.

Even before America entered the conflict, however, T. H. Symington was already providing supplies to the anti-German forces. Incorporated in early 1916, the Symington Machine Company manufactured shrapnel and shell casings for the British and Russians in two production facilities: Plant A (for shrapnel production, at the corner of Leighton Avenue and Barnum Street); and Plant B (for shell casings, at 25 Leighton Avenue).

Over two million shrapnel and shells were produced for the allies under a subcontract with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and 420,000 shrapnel were produced under a subcontract for the Eddystone Ammunition Corporation. The company’s Machinery Catalog stated that their machinery could produce explosive or shrapnel shells of any size up to 3.75 inches in diameter and 13 inches in length.

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Symington Shrapnel

In 1917, as the United States entered the war, a new subsidiary was formed, the Symington Anderson Company, a partnership between Thomas Harrison Symington and fellow businessman Morton Howard Anderson (November 14, 1873-March 3, 1955). Anderson had experience in foundry work, having worked previously for Allis-Chalmers Company (a manufacturer of farm machinery) and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. It is likely the partnership was an outgrowth of the subcontracting work for Bethlehem. Throughout the war, Anderson served as Vice President and General Manager of Symington Anderson.

By July 1918, the corporation was one of sixteen gun plants hastily constructed by the government to produce 3000 75-millimeter cannons (of which total Symington by itself made nearly one-third — 985). The War Industries Board parceled out the manufacture of these guns in three separate parts. Symington’s role was to produce the gun tube. The plant could produce 15 gun tubes daily (weighing 750 pounds each), as well 20 six-inch trench mortars.

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Chalk Board Tracking Company Operations

The Symington Forge Corporation was formed in late 1917 and set to work building a single-story 59,850 square foot building at University Avenue and Blossom Road. The plant performed rough castings of shells that were later taken to the Symington Machine Company’s Plant B to be lathed and made into finished shells.

Symington’s munitions production facilities did not survive the war. At the war’s end, Symington closed the University Avenue and Leighton Avenue facilities and turned ownership over to the United States government. In 1919, the Leighton Avenue facilities were sold to General Electric to manufacture small motors.  By the mid-1920s, the University Avenue properties had also moved into private ownership.

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Symington-Gould Building, Corner of Lincoln and West Avenues,
Today General Railway Signal

The original T.H. Symington Company continued to manufacture railroad components. In 1924, T.H. Symington sold his interest in the company to his two brothers, Charles J. Symington (2 February 1883-28 July 1878) and Donald L. Symington (27 October 1881-22 May 1944). One year later, the brothers purchased Gould Coupler Company and the Gould Storage Battery Company. In 1936, Symington and Gould merged to form the Symington Gould Corporation.

In 1942, during World War II, Symington Gould resumed armament production, including the construction of a new foundry and steel production facility at the corner of West and Lincoln Avenues. Among its other output were components for the Sherman tank. Armament production ceased following the end of the war. In 1948, Symington Gould’s production facilities moved to Depew (Erie County), New York. With its departure went Rochester’s unofficial status as the “Armaments City.”

-Christopher Brennan


For Further Information:

Sylvia R. Black and Harriett Julia Naylor, “Rochester and World War I,” Rochester History 5, no. 4 (October 1943).

Edward R. Foreman, “Rochester A World War Ordinance Center,” in World War Service Record of Rochester and Monroe County, New York (Rochester, New York: Published by the City of Rochester, 1930), 3:459-466.

“Maj. W.S. Symington Dead,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) 11 June 1912, p. 9, cols. 1-4.

Rochester in History and Our Part in the World War, ed. Henry C. Maine (Rochester, New York: Wegman-Walsh Press, 1922).

“Services are Held for T. H. Symington,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 22 September 1931, p. 6, col. 1.

Auke Z. Verbree, A History of the Rochester Industrial Center: A.K.A., T.H. Symington Company & [sic] Symington Gould Company, Rochester, New York 1910-2015 (Rochester, New York: Mountain Air Books, 2015).



Published in: on June 7, 2018 at 1:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Past Purpose: The Graham Highland Park Sanatorium

Repurposed buildings abound in the city of Rochester. Dinosaur BBQ (formerly the LeHigh Valley Railroad Station), the Lofts at Michaels-Stern (formerly the Michaels-Stern & Co. clothing factory) and Radio Social (formerly a Stromberg-Carlson warehouse) are perhaps some of the more well-known examples. A lesser known repurposed edifice lies just steps away from Highland Park.


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1100 South Avenue as seen from Alpine Street.

This elongated building gracing the corner of South Avenue and Alpine Street has been an apartment complex for the past century, but it was once a sanatorium.



The building as it looked in the early twentieth century. [Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center]

In the 19th and early 20th centuries (before the advent of antibiotics), sanatoriums served as health centers that treated patients with chronic and long-term illnesses such as tuberculosis. Some functioned much like a health resort, while others were more akin to a multi-purpose hospital. The former institutions were usually referred to as sanitariums, while the latter were commonly called sanatoriums. Both were guided by the principle that fresh air, rest and relaxation were integral in the healing process.

In the spring of 1900, Dr. Merritt E. Graham, a former Monroe County Coroner and the chief surgeon at the Hahnemann Hospital (the homeopathic precursor to Highland Hospital), opened an eponymous sanatorium, which boasted the latest in modern medical equipment and an envious hillside setting on South Avenue.

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The parkside Graham Sanatorium can be seen in the lower left corner of this ca 1910 map. [City of Rochester Plat Map, 1910)

As the Democrat & Chronicle noted on June 9, 1900: “The most attractive location for a health resort in Rochester is that selected for the Graham Highland Park Sanatorium, on the northwest border of the beautiful Highland Park. From the porches of the sanatorium a view of the entire city, with Lake Ontario in the distance, is obtained, while over the park to the eastward and southward is a lovely landscape as far as the eye can reach.”


A circa 1900 advertisement for the Sanatorium (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, July 25, 1900)

Merritt Graham ran his pastoral practice for five years until his untimely death in August 1905.


Dr. Merritt E. Graham (1855-1905) [Notable men of Rochester and vicinity, XIX and XX centuries. 1902]

Following Merrit’s passing, his son Dr. Corden T. Graham took over the institution. By the close of October that year, the sanatorium had put on an addition, and rebranded itself as the Graham Highland Park Sanatorium and Maternity Hospital.


Dr. Corden T. Graham displaying the sanatorium’s first X-Ray Machine.


In addition to TB patients and expecting mothers, the sanatorium also admitted individuals who suffered from “nervous ailments” and various mental illnesses. At the time, it was maintained by many in the medical community that these conditions, like physical illnesses, could often be treated by a prolonged period of rest in a healthful environment.

While this method of treatment was seemingly successful for a number of Graham’s patients, others only found escape from their troubles by escaping the hospital itself and taking matters into their own hands.

One such incident almost led to the Highland Park Sanatorium’s demise. In November 1907, a well-respected professor from West High School named Fred Abell fled the sanatorium via a fire escape two weeks after his family had brought him to the facility. The next day, Abell’s body was found near the reservoir in Highland Park, where he had died due to exposure.

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Headline from Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, November 8, 1907.

Abell’s death led the State Lunacy Commission to launch an inquest into Dr. Corden T. Graham and his institution. Their main charge was that Graham had no right to treat mentally ill patients since he didn’t have a license to admit them to his hospital.

Graham defended his actions by indicating that his sanatorium only accepted patients that suffered from mild forms of mental illness, such as melancholia, and that other hospitals in the city also engaged in this practice.

The doctor was indicted by a Grand Jury in 1908, but the indictment was later dismissed when the case was brought before a county judge.

graham_grand jury

Headline from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, February 11, 1908.

Judge Stephens contended that hospitals such as the Graham Highland Park Sanatorium allowed individuals suffering from mild mental illness to get treated without having to undergo a State-ordered commitment to an asylum. Moreover, patients could be temporarily admitted to institutions such as Graham’s and then reintegrate into society without suffering any of the stigma associated with having been committed (which was then a matter of public record).

As  Stephens explained: “To deny the right of hospitals to receive occasional patients who are for the time irresponsible would deny to that class of patients adequate treatment outside of an insane asylum and would, to that extent, defeat the humane and commendable purpose of securing proper care and attention for them without the accompanying injury of a judicial commitment.”

Dr. Graham continued to run the Highland Park Sanatorium for almost a decade following the court case. After selling the hospital in 1917, he went on to become the surgical director of Base 19 Hospital in France during WWI and a Lieutenant-Colonel in the US Army Reserve.

The hospital he left behind was converted into the apartment complex that remains perched atop the corner of South Avenue and Alpine Street today.


-Emily Morry

Published in: on May 31, 2018 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Arsenal for Democracy: The Symington Companies in World War I – Part 1

Rochester has been variously described as “The Flour City,” “The Flower City,” and “The Image City,” even “Baseball City USA,” but no one has ever described it as “The Armaments City.” During the First World War, however, that is what it was.

The Rochester Ordinance District covered all of New York State except New York City, Long Island, and nine counties north of the Bronx. Over 80 companies in this district contributed to the war effort. Kodak, for example, made the first aerial cameras. Bausch + Lomb made optical glass for range finders, gun sights, periscopes and binoculars. Stromberg-Carlson made telephones and radio equipment for the Signal Corps. Most of Gleason Works’ output of machine tools, gears and castings went directly to the American armed forces. And, of course, there was military weaponry, including machine guns, rifles, various other guns and cannons, shells and shrapnel. From April 1917, to the end of calendar year 1918, the Ordinance District was credited with producing 17,850,512 pieces of military equipment. To meet the high demand, nearly one-third of those manufacturing such armaments were women.

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Symington Factory

Within the city of Rochester itself, there was no larger manufacturer of military ordinance than the T.H. Symington Company. The company was named for its founder and president, Thomas Harrison Symington (14 May 1869-19 September 1931).  Symington was the son of William Stuart Symington (5 January 1839-9 June 1912), a socially prominent citizen of Baltimore.  Stuart, as he was known, was described at his death as a “Confederate of the Old School.” During the Civil War, he served as an aide-de-camp to General George Pickett (of “Pickett’s Charge” fame) from 1862 until the surrender at Appomattox.   After the war, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, preferring to emigrate to Germany instead. After several years abroad, he returned and achieved success in business. His initial effort was in manufacturing fertilizer. When Ferdinand Latrobe was mayor of Baltimore, Stuart served as Superintendent of Lighting and Inspector of Gas Meters (1889-1895). Later, he worked in insurance and served as Secretary to the Board of the Consolidated Gas Company.

Son Thomas had a technological, rather than a chemical, bent, working for and eventually serving railroads. In 1887, he began his career, working as an apprentice for the Baltimore and Ohio (B and O) Railroad. He served there for four years before enrolling at Lehigh University to study mechanical engineering. Upon graduating, he returned to the B and O until 1901, when he started his own firm, the T. H. Symington Company. Headquartered in Baltimore, the firm made railway supplies such as journal boxes, draft gears, side frames, ball and roller bearings, and dust guards for steam and electric train cars and locomotives. The business was so successful that various manufacturing plants were established outside of Baltimore.

In 1909, one such plant opened in Rochester (at West Avenue and Lincoln Park). Initially supervised by local personnel, beginning in 1914, operations were supervised by Symington himself, as he relocated to Rochester, remaining here until after the First World War. Prior to the American entrance into the war, Symington had a successful foundry business, subcontracting railroad parts for firms that manufactured 12,000 railroad cars for Russia.


Symington Employees at Work (1917-1918)

Once the war got underway, Symington did not want to give up his peace time production, so he created three new subsidiaries to meet the demand for war materiel: Symington Machine Corporation (25 Leighton Street); the Symington-Anderson Corporation (1044 University Avenue); and the Symington Forge Corporation (1244 University Avenue).

We will hear more about these firms in the next post…


Symington Forging Storage
Capacity: 1 Million Shells
At peak, the company could produce 15,000 shells per day

Christopher Brennan

For Further Information:

Sylvia R. Black and Harriett Julia Naylor, “Rochester and World War I,” Rochester History 5, no. 4 (October 1943).

Edward R. Foreman, “Rochester A World War Ordinance Center,” in World War Service Record of Rochester and Monroe County, New York (Rochester, New York: Published by the City of Rochester, 1930), 3:459-466.

“Maj. W.S. Symington Dead,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) 11 June 1912, p. 9, cols. 1-4.

“Services are Held for T. H. Symington,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 22 September 1931, p. 6, col. 1.

Auke Z. Verbree, A History of the Rochester Industrial Center: A.K.A., T.H. Symington Company & [sic] Symington Gould Company, Rochester, New York 1910-2015 (Rochester, New York: Mountain Air Books, 2015).

Published in: on May 24, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Hello, I Must Be Going: Frederick Douglass’ Arrival and Departure from Rochester (Last of a Series)

“Hello, I must be going. I cannot stay; I came to say I must be going. I’m glad I came, but just the same I must be going, la la!”

Hello, I Must Be Going, [comic song]. Words and Music by Bert Kelmar and Harry Ruby. Sung by Groucho Marx in the film Animal Crackers (1930).

 Local History Rocs is a website devoted to the history of Rochester and its environs, but careful readers of this series of blog posts tracing the career of Frederick Douglass will note that he has yet to arrive here. To date he has lived in Tuckahoe County, Maryland, New York City, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Great Britain and Ireland.

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Douglass’ first Rochester home at 297 Alexander Street.

Douglass had been in Rochester several times on his speaking tours, but finally settled here in 1847, partly due to the influence of the Rev. Thomas James, who had been his pastor in New Bedford and had previously been the pastor of the Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rochester (42 Favor Street). Wishing to start his own anti-slavery newspaper (what became The North Star), Douglass, it is commonly held, initially published the paper out of the basement of James’ former church, later moving operations to 25 Buffalo Street (what is today the Talman Building, located at 25 East Main Street).

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Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Favor Street

Douglass relocated due to Rochester’s reputation as the home of abolitionists, women’s rights activists, and temperance reformers. Among his staunchest friends were Underground Railroad conductors, Isaac and Amy Post, and women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony. It would be misleading, however, to suggest that Rochester was colorblind.

Shortly after moving into the first of his three homes (this one on Alexander Street), Douglass sent his daughter Rosetta to the nearby Seward Seminary. The principal, Lucilia Tracy, admitted her, but placed her in a class by herself due to disapproval by the school’s board of trustees. After protests from Douglass, Miss Tracy sent the white children home with notes to their parents, seeking their views on accepting Rosetta as a pupil. Due to the opposition of one parent – Horatio Gates Warner, editor of the Rochester Courier newspaper and designer of the Warner Castle on Mt. Hope Avenue – Douglass was forced to withdraw his daughter from the school. He later took part in a campaign to desegregate Rochester schools, a goal that was achieved statewide in 1857.

Douglass continued to reside in Rochester until 1872, his home and his office both functioning as Underground Railroad stations before the Civil War. After the war, much of his time was spent lecturing throughout the nation and lobbying in Washington, D.C. for civil rights. On the evening of June 3, 1872, while Douglass was once more in Washington, a fire broke out in the last home he owned here (on South Avenue, near where Highland Park is now). It was initially posited that the fire had been deliberately set.

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Frederick Douglass’ Funeral (1895), Central Presbyterian Church (today Hochstein School of Music).

As Douglass  exclaimed shortly after, even in one of the “most liberal of northern cities … that Ku Klux spirit … makes anything owned by a colored man a little less respected and secure than when owned by a white citizen.” Shortly after the fire, he left Rochester for good, making his home in the nation’s capital for the next 23 years. He returned to Rochester in a coffin, having died on 20 February 1895. Today, his mortal remains are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, a pilgrimage site for all those committed to civil rights.

-Christopher Brennan

For More Information:

“Douglass (Bailey), Frederick,” in The Encyclopedia of New York State, ed. Peter Eisenstadt (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 467-468.

The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series One, Speeches, Debates and Interviews, Volume 3: 1855-1863, ed. John W. Blassingame (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).

“Frederick Douglass’ Rochester: Mapping his Tracks in Our City,” [exhibition], Rundel Memorial Building, Rochester Public Library.

William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991).

Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Part One,” Rochester History 67, no. 3 (Summer 2005).

Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Part Two,” Rochester History 67, no. 4 (Fall 2005).

Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment